Quid fluitat cibus et gula potibus undat et escis?
pasta cibis cibus es caro, vermibus, atque putrescis.
est tua cernere pallida funere membra vel ora
funere pallida, sensibus algida, seque minora.
flava vel aurea, quam per eburnea colla rotabas,
caesaries iacet, et cor et os tacet, unde tonabas.
lumina visibus auris et auribus, os caret ore,
nasus odoribus et cor amoribus, ossa calore.
ad mala pes citus ac oculus situs in muliere
collaque lactea, brachia cerea computruere.
cerea brachia tam specialia quam speciosa,
membraque lubrica continet unica parvaque fossa.
candidus antea dens, labra flammea, flos faciei
et gena lucida sunt modo putrida, pars saniei.
nunc ubi pocula, nunc ubi fercula, fercula mille?
flos ubi primulus et rubicundulus est color ille?
vox ubi fractior, illecebrosior est ubi risus,
sermoque lubricus atque phreneticus in probra visus?
nunc ubi baltheus, annulus aureus, aurea vitta?
patria nomina nunc ubi culmina sunt proavita?
rege caro sata vermibus est data factaque vermis;
regibus edita rebus et obsita, nunc es inermis.
corpus amabile nunc es inutile corpus, et atrum;
morte resolveris atque cadaveris es simulacrum.
terrea gloria nunc quasi lilia, cras quasi ventus:
pulchra fugit modo tempore postmodo morte iuventus.
splendida pectora, splendida corpora corpus habentur,
utque senilia sic iuvenilia busta videntur.
mox puer interit ut rosa deperit edita vere,
a valido vigor, eripitur nitor a muliere.
lyncea lumina mentis acumina si quis haberet,
fellea dulcia pulchraque turpia, credo, videret;
corpora candida, pectora vivida, membra venusta
ossaque regia sint modo qualia, consule, busta.
vociferantia seque minantia busta loquuntur:
“primus et ultimus, altus et infimus, hic capiuntur.”
(Bernard of Cluny, De Contemptu Mundi 1.795-830)
Why is there such a stream of food, and why does the throat overflow with drinks and meals? O flesh stuffed with food, you are food for worms, and you rot. We see your limbs pallid in death or your face pallid in death, cold to the touch, less than themselves. Your yellow golden hair which you whirled about your ivory neck lies motionless; your heart is still, and your mouth which roared is now silent. Your eyes are deprived of seeing, your ears of hearing, your mouth of speech, your nose is deprived of scents, your heart of desires, your bones of warmth. Your foot swift to evil and your eye set on a woman, your milk-white neck and waxen arms have putrefied. A single, small ditch contains your waxen arms, so special, so splendid, and your wanton limbs. Your teeth once white, your flame-red lips, the former bloom of your face and clear cheeks are now rotten, part of corruption. Where are your cups now, where are your dishes now, your thousand dishes? Where is that first bloom and that ruddy hue? Where is your softened voice, where is your enticing smile, your wanton speech and frantic glances toward lewd acts? Where is your golden belt now, your golden ring, your golden chaplet? Where are your ancient names now, your ancestral honors? Your flesh sired by kings is given to worms and becomes a worm. O flesh born of kings and covered with possessions, now you are defenseless. O lovely body, now you are useless and black. You are dissolved in death, and you are the shadow of a corpse.
Earthly glory is like lilies now, but tomorrow like the wind. Fair youth now flies away because of time, but later because of death. Noble hearts and noble bodies become a corpse, and tombs of the young are seen just as tombs of the old. A child dies soon, just as a rose put forth in spring perishes, vigor is snatched away from a healthy man, beauty from a woman. If anyone might have the eyes of a lynx and keenness of mind, he would see, I believe, that sweet things are full of gall and handsome things are ugly. Take counsel: let beautiful bodies, lively hearts, comely limbs and regal bones be now just as tombs. The resounding tombs, the menacing tombs say, “Here are held the first and the last, the high and the low.” (tr. Ronald E. Pepin)